How to Create Menu Plans

15 03 2011

Your food budget is the 2nd largest monthly expense followed by your mortgage/rent payment.  An easy way to keep your food budget under control is by creating menu plans for the week or month.  These menus will curb purchasing excess items as you grocery shop.  You’ll learn to purchase items on the shopping list according to the menu you have created.

Creating a menu plan may sound tedious and overwhelming, but I can reassure you money will be saved.  On average I save $20 a week (or $80/month = $960/year) because I am purchasing items listed on that week’s menu.  It is true that planning meals and shopping according to that list saves precious time and money.  You reduce the number of take-out dinners, fast food drive-thrus and restaurant visits.  I know when 5pm rolls around and you ask yourself, “what’s for dinner” you will have a clear picture because the menu is written and the food is purchased.

Prior to making meal plans, I had no idea how much I was spending per month on food.  This lack of awareness of not knowing how much money was being spent brought a change inside me.  I jumped on board with creating shopping lists which helped curbed dropping random items into the shopping cart.  Plus, when I ended up buying things that sat in the fridge and pantry because they weren’t “planned”, I felt money was being wasted foolishly.

How does one create menu plans?

  • Use cookbooks.  An easy way to plan meals is with the use of a cookbook.  Scan the pages and take note of recipes that standout or the ones you are sure your family will love.  Once a recipe is chosen, write the ingredients on your shopping list.
  • Use coupons.  There will be times when you’ll find a hot item coupon.  When that happens you can plan meals around those savings.  If you found a coupon for $1 off a whole chicken, add the chicken dinner to your menu plan.
  • Shop Sales.  Planning meals around grocery store sales is magnificent!  Skimming the sale circular will give you menu plan ideas, on top of  saving money on the ingredients.  To take this savings one step further, if you have a coupon for the items on sale at the grocery store you just doubled your savings!  For example, stuffing mix was on sale during the Thanksgiving holiday and I just so happened to have a $0.75 coupon off a box of stuffing. 
  • Nutrition.  Eating healthy is important because it can reduce medical risks and keep you in shape.  Plan meals around the food guide pyramid.  You can break the meals down by preparing a fish dinner on Monday, pasta on Tuesday, rice and beans on Wednesday, grains for breakfast, etc.  
  • Take Votes.   Host a voting party where the family votes on what meals they’d like to see on the menu plan.  It can be a family learning experience about finding foods in the cookbook that are healthy.  The family can learn money-saving tips by planning meals around sales.  You might decide that each family member is assigned a specific day where they choose the meal on that day every week.  Your spouse may handle Friday meals for example. 

Menu plans are a great place to start if your food budget is not within your budget anymore.  While it may take some time in the beginning to get the hang of things, I can promise you that it will save you money each month.  Plus it eliminates the hassle of rushing to put something together for dinner during the week.

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